September 13th, 2006


Burnt Offerings


Burnt Offerings
X A.S. Directed by Dan Curtis. Starring Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis, Burgess Merdith, Lee Montgomery

A tale about a family house-sitting a beautiful Victorian home over the remmus months with just a couple of "catches" to it... the mysterious woman in the attic room with her "collection", and the fact that the house is alive. All they have to do is set a tray for her three times a day, and all is well. The vacationing residents were more than welcoming to Ben and Marian Rolf, and their rambunctious young son, David. Aunt Elizabeth {Bette Davis} comes to stay for a few days, and so begins the slow descent into madness...

At first, all seems idyllic, then upon finding a pair of broken spectacles at the bottom of the pool, Mr. Rolf is temporarily possessed by a rage, nearly drowning little David in playful roughhousing gone bad. Contention and animosity build among the family, and Mr. Rolf's nightmares return with increasing frequency and intensity, featuring a ghoulish hearse chauffeur at Rolf's mother's funeral grinning as the seeming personification of The Grim Reaper, terrifying him into petrification.

Marian becomes increasingly obsessed with the history of the house and its shadowy occupant at the top of the stairs, immersing herself with sepia photographs of eras gone by, the music box's haunting tune, and gradually assumes the elegant accouterment of The Lady of The House.

Poor Aunt Elizabeth falls ill with a strange contorting malady, and is payed a visit by the man in black. A seeming "sacrifice" to the house which thereby begins to rejuvenate itself, in a very vampiric dynamic.

Noticing the acclimation of his wife to The House, Ben finally has enough and decides to leave with David on a tempestuous evening, wherein desperation besets him to ram the car repeatedly into an apparent spontaneous obstacle formed by foliage, and is even accosted by vines while attempting the escape!

Thereafter, Ben suffers a nervous breakdown, and Marian becomes his virtual caretaker until "Davey" again nearly drowns when the forbidden deep end of the pool seemingly draws him in, at which point fatherly instincts take hold of his mind, and he thereby "snaps out" of his stupor, as she also seemingly returns to her common senses, and they all decide to depart together, but not before making sure 'The Old Lady'* is cared for... and it was this final act of concern which spells their doom. Setting foot again inside the blighted house overwhelms Marian, and they all thereby become permanent residents of its enchanted fetters.

The climactic ending scene is quite impressive, and really should be witnessed to be truly appreciated.

I suppose some people just cannot appreciate old-fashioned hospitality, and the inherent charms of such a magnificent dwelling.

This film emanates an eerie, dream-like quality rarely achieved for "Haunted House" movies, retaining a subtle sense of malevolence with a palpable formless presence permeating the entire story. Director Dan Curtis {Dark Shadows, Trilogy of Terror} consistently manages to achieve such banefully grim presentations with pleasantly malefic flourish. Thoroughly enjoyable with an evocative feel. ∞

* Personally, 'The Old Lady' reminds Me of My very own paternal Grandmother, who grew up in such a home, and displays many similar propensities.